Osteoarthritis: What is it and how can Physical Therapy help?

Did you know there are more than 100 types of arthritis? The 2 most cited include osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA), with osteoarthritis being the most common form. OA is so common, that people will even nickname their condition – Arthur Itis, anyone? If you don’t have OA yourself, it’s likely that you know someone who does. Here are answers to some of the most common questions related to OA:

What is Osteoarthritis? OA is a complex disease involving the breakdown of cartilage between joints. Cartilage acts as a cushion to allow frictionless motion, therefore, when it deteriorates, bone will rub against bone and cause pain & inflammation.

Which joints can I get Osteoarthritis? Any joint in your body!

What are the risk factors associated with Osteoarthritis?

  • Age: Age older than 50 years

  • Gender: Women are more likely to develop OA – we don’t know why!

  • Obesity: Carrying increased weight adds increased stress to joints. Simply by losing 10 lbs (if appropriate) can reduce pain!

  • Joint injury: Injuries can increase the risk of OA. Even injuries that happened years ago can increase your risk of developing OA later in life.

  • Muscle Weakness: Lack of strength & stability around a joint will increase stress placed on the cartilage

  • Genetics: Thanks Mom & Dad!

Can I prevent Osteoarthritis? Yes & no. There are some risk factors that are out of our control including age, gender & genetics. However, there is a lot of controllable factors that can reduce your risk of getting OA. Maintaining a healthy weight, staying strong & flexible are the best ways to help reduce your risk.

Can I cure Osteoarthritis? Short answer: No. BUT, you can reduce or even eliminate symptoms associated with osteoarthritis. Much of the population is walking around with some level of joint degeneration…but that doesn’t mean they are symptomatic. People can function without pain despite a diagnosis of osteoarthritis. How? First of all, it important to control inflammation. This can be done via medication or through conservative measures like nutrition & exercise. It important to maintain or improve joint & muscle flexibility to allow for normal motion (motion is lotion) AND increase strength as much as possible. By increasing muscle strength, you provide support around the joint.

My doctor said I need a joint replaced because of my arthritis – is this true? Again, it depends. Joint replacements are major surgeries that are usually successful, but do come with risk. Additionally, post-operative rehab requires a lot of commitment & patience. All types of conservative treatment should be attempted first.

As mentioned earlier, OA is the most common joint disease and the leading cause of disability worldwide. There is no pill or “quick fix” to make this condition go away. Physical Therapy, represented by regular exercise, has great advantages when compared to medication or surgery…such as ease of application, minimal adverse effects and relatively low cost. Therefore, physical therapy has overwhelmingly been recommended as a critical intervention strategy for OA by leading international organizations and authorities.

There is hope to reduce pain and improve function! Reach out to HUSK Physical Therapy today to get your started on a program that will send “Arthur” packing!